men checking exterior of window for lead paint
Photo: Anthony Tieuli
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"If you live in a house built before 1978, assume it has lead-based paint," says TOH general contractor Tom Silva. The question for the Sharmas, whose house was built decades before the 1977 ban, was: How much lead was there—and where, exactly? Lead abatement became a budgetary issue for anyone hiring out a renovation last April, when the Environmental Protection Agency introduced its Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP) rules. These require every contractor who comes into contact with lead paint to complete an eight-hour certification and follow strict new guidelines that make the work more time-consuming, labor-intensive and, as a result, expensive.

Now, even a plumber installing a shower—or any project encompassing more than 6 square feet of lead-painted surface (20 square feet outside)—must wear a HEPA-filtered respirator and meticulously contain and clean up paint debris by sealing off the entire room with plastic and duct tape. The paint removal still has to be done in a way that eliminates dust, and, just to be safe, everything from tools to coveralls must be cleaned before leaving the contaminated space. Ignoring the rules can lead to hefty fines.

Shown: TOH general contractor Tom Silva inspects a window frame for lead paint with homeowner Raveen Sharma at this season's TOH TV project house.
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